MarTech Interview With Curt Larson, Chief Product Officer at Sharethrough

4
at
4
minutes
Technical Level
September 12, 2022
4
minutes
Technical Level
September 12, 2022
Curt Larson
Chief Product Officer

This article was featured on MarTech Series by Paroma Sen, published on September 12th, 2022.

Welcome to this MarTech Series chat, Curt, tell us about your journey through the B2B tech market and more about your time at Sharethrough…

Prior to Sharethrough, my career was a mix of B2B and B2C – most recently at RingCentral, a business phone systems unicorn. Coming to Sharethrough, I saw a company that wasn’t just finding ways to extract money out of the adtech ecosystem but was really looking to make advertising better – for consumers, publishers, and advertisers. Consumers love to hate on advertising, but it funds the internet – I believe finding ways to make advertising better is a critical mission that Sharethrough addresses.

I’ve spent the past 10 years at Sharethrough first growing a native advertising exchange, then transitioning to programmatic (including writing the first spec, helping most DSPs do their first native implementations, etc), and in the past 5 years finding ways to bring the advantages of native advertising to other formats like web video, banner, and CTV.

How have you been seeing the online advertising space evolve today and what near-term thoughts/predictions do you have for this space?

Online advertising is a fast-moving space. One of the most significant changes over the past decade has been the transition to programmatic sales, which is now the dominant channel in all but a few contexts.

Even more prevalent in discussions today is the move away from the reliance the ad tech industry has on 3rd-party cookies. While almost entirely benign in intention, the industry’s reliance has bloated the workload for user browsers and created the potential for privacy opacity and abuse. Moving to more transparent, privacy-first mechanisms won’t be an easy transition for the industry but we’ll land in a better spot.

Seeing how newer regulations/the downfall of cookies is set to change how publishers/advertisers will function: what do you feel publishers and advertisers need to keep in mind for a cookieless future?

The first thing I like to talk about here is that cookieless is not the future – cookieless is today.  Every browser other than Chrome has already stopped supporting 3rd-party cookies.  Most advertisers naturally let their ad dollars drift to Chrome, which at ~60% market share still allows them to deliver their campaigns. Ignoring non-Chrome browsers is ignoring a large set of users that advertisers should want to reach.

Advertisers should be trying a variety of tactics in Safari, Firefox, and other cookieless browsers. Tactics such as contextual targeting and using some of the newer cookieless user targeting options.  They can also experiment with different attribution models. Advertisers will not only find incremental reach today but will be prepared as Chrome makes changes in the future and be ahead of those who left all their ad dollars in Chrome until the last minute.

How in your view will adtech as a segment evolve to meet changing market needs and conditions?

The themes of Supply Path Optimization (SPO) have been leading marketers to realize that not all ad opportunities are created equal – by thinking more thoughtfully about the path of their ad dollars they can accomplish a variety of goals including:

  • fee minimization,
  • transparency,
  • fraud reduction,
  • DEI initiative support,
  • reduced carbon emissions,
  • ad performance,
  • and more.

I believe this trend will continue and specifically will broaden the focus of SPO away from just fee reduction to some of those other factors.

Can you share a few thoughts on the most impactful ad practices you’ve seen being undertaken by B2B teams today?

I see B2B teams achieving success by experimenting with targetting Safari and Firefox users, along with iOS in-app, through new targeting and attribution models. They’re reaching a huge segment of untapped audiences, and ones that share some essential attributes.

First, most owners of Apple products fit in this forgotten segment – a segment many marketers would be excited to reach. Second, because marketers are largely ignoring non-Chrome traffic, the ad load and ad clearing prices on these browsers are lower. Together, these factors give B2B and all other marketers a huge opportunity to focus on effectively operating in Safari and Firefox contexts today.

Some last thoughts, on making the most of one’s martech/adtech to drive goals through 2022 and beyond?

There are many exciting ways for marketers to make the most of their tech stack and their ad dollars:

  • Purposely evaluating walled-garden ad spend with an intention to diversify ad investment and support the types of online journalism that are aligned more with the interests of the brand.
  • Using SPO to eliminate non-value-add parts of the adtech ecosystem (such as pure impression reselling.)
  • Testing out new targeting and attribution models and contextual targeting in cookieless browsers such as Safari and Firefox.
  • Returning to emphasize the creative. Too often programmatic adtech is too obsessed with the tech and is not sufficiently concerned with the actual experience they are giving a consumer who sees their ad.

This article was featured on MarTech Series by Paroma Sen, published on September 12th, 2022.

Welcome to this MarTech Series chat, Curt, tell us about your journey through the B2B tech market and more about your time at Sharethrough…

Prior to Sharethrough, my career was a mix of B2B and B2C – most recently at RingCentral, a business phone systems unicorn. Coming to Sharethrough, I saw a company that wasn’t just finding ways to extract money out of the adtech ecosystem but was really looking to make advertising better – for consumers, publishers, and advertisers. Consumers love to hate on advertising, but it funds the internet – I believe finding ways to make advertising better is a critical mission that Sharethrough addresses.

I’ve spent the past 10 years at Sharethrough first growing a native advertising exchange, then transitioning to programmatic (including writing the first spec, helping most DSPs do their first native implementations, etc), and in the past 5 years finding ways to bring the advantages of native advertising to other formats like web video, banner, and CTV.

How have you been seeing the online advertising space evolve today and what near-term thoughts/predictions do you have for this space?

Online advertising is a fast-moving space. One of the most significant changes over the past decade has been the transition to programmatic sales, which is now the dominant channel in all but a few contexts.

Even more prevalent in discussions today is the move away from the reliance the ad tech industry has on 3rd-party cookies. While almost entirely benign in intention, the industry’s reliance has bloated the workload for user browsers and created the potential for privacy opacity and abuse. Moving to more transparent, privacy-first mechanisms won’t be an easy transition for the industry but we’ll land in a better spot.

Seeing how newer regulations/the downfall of cookies is set to change how publishers/advertisers will function: what do you feel publishers and advertisers need to keep in mind for a cookieless future?

The first thing I like to talk about here is that cookieless is not the future – cookieless is today.  Every browser other than Chrome has already stopped supporting 3rd-party cookies.  Most advertisers naturally let their ad dollars drift to Chrome, which at ~60% market share still allows them to deliver their campaigns. Ignoring non-Chrome browsers is ignoring a large set of users that advertisers should want to reach.

Advertisers should be trying a variety of tactics in Safari, Firefox, and other cookieless browsers. Tactics such as contextual targeting and using some of the newer cookieless user targeting options.  They can also experiment with different attribution models. Advertisers will not only find incremental reach today but will be prepared as Chrome makes changes in the future and be ahead of those who left all their ad dollars in Chrome until the last minute.

How in your view will adtech as a segment evolve to meet changing market needs and conditions?

The themes of Supply Path Optimization (SPO) have been leading marketers to realize that not all ad opportunities are created equal – by thinking more thoughtfully about the path of their ad dollars they can accomplish a variety of goals including:

  • fee minimization,
  • transparency,
  • fraud reduction,
  • DEI initiative support,
  • reduced carbon emissions,
  • ad performance,
  • and more.

I believe this trend will continue and specifically will broaden the focus of SPO away from just fee reduction to some of those other factors.

Can you share a few thoughts on the most impactful ad practices you’ve seen being undertaken by B2B teams today?

I see B2B teams achieving success by experimenting with targetting Safari and Firefox users, along with iOS in-app, through new targeting and attribution models. They’re reaching a huge segment of untapped audiences, and ones that share some essential attributes.

First, most owners of Apple products fit in this forgotten segment – a segment many marketers would be excited to reach. Second, because marketers are largely ignoring non-Chrome traffic, the ad load and ad clearing prices on these browsers are lower. Together, these factors give B2B and all other marketers a huge opportunity to focus on effectively operating in Safari and Firefox contexts today.

Some last thoughts, on making the most of one’s martech/adtech to drive goals through 2022 and beyond?

There are many exciting ways for marketers to make the most of their tech stack and their ad dollars:

  • Purposely evaluating walled-garden ad spend with an intention to diversify ad investment and support the types of online journalism that are aligned more with the interests of the brand.
  • Using SPO to eliminate non-value-add parts of the adtech ecosystem (such as pure impression reselling.)
  • Testing out new targeting and attribution models and contextual targeting in cookieless browsers such as Safari and Firefox.
  • Returning to emphasize the creative. Too often programmatic adtech is too obsessed with the tech and is not sufficiently concerned with the actual experience they are giving a consumer who sees their ad.
No items found.
About Behind Headlines: 180 Seconds in Ad Tech—

Behind Headlines: 180 Seconds in Ad Tech is a short 3-minute podcast exploring the news in the digital advertising industry. Ad tech is a fast-growing industry with many updates happening daily. As it can be hard for most to keep up with the latest news, the Sharethrough team wanted to create an audio series compiling notable mentions each week.

This article was featured on MarTech Series by Paroma Sen, published on September 12th, 2022.

Welcome to this MarTech Series chat, Curt, tell us about your journey through the B2B tech market and more about your time at Sharethrough…

Prior to Sharethrough, my career was a mix of B2B and B2C – most recently at RingCentral, a business phone systems unicorn. Coming to Sharethrough, I saw a company that wasn’t just finding ways to extract money out of the adtech ecosystem but was really looking to make advertising better – for consumers, publishers, and advertisers. Consumers love to hate on advertising, but it funds the internet – I believe finding ways to make advertising better is a critical mission that Sharethrough addresses.

I’ve spent the past 10 years at Sharethrough first growing a native advertising exchange, then transitioning to programmatic (including writing the first spec, helping most DSPs do their first native implementations, etc), and in the past 5 years finding ways to bring the advantages of native advertising to other formats like web video, banner, and CTV.

How have you been seeing the online advertising space evolve today and what near-term thoughts/predictions do you have for this space?

Online advertising is a fast-moving space. One of the most significant changes over the past decade has been the transition to programmatic sales, which is now the dominant channel in all but a few contexts.

Even more prevalent in discussions today is the move away from the reliance the ad tech industry has on 3rd-party cookies. While almost entirely benign in intention, the industry’s reliance has bloated the workload for user browsers and created the potential for privacy opacity and abuse. Moving to more transparent, privacy-first mechanisms won’t be an easy transition for the industry but we’ll land in a better spot.

Seeing how newer regulations/the downfall of cookies is set to change how publishers/advertisers will function: what do you feel publishers and advertisers need to keep in mind for a cookieless future?

The first thing I like to talk about here is that cookieless is not the future – cookieless is today.  Every browser other than Chrome has already stopped supporting 3rd-party cookies.  Most advertisers naturally let their ad dollars drift to Chrome, which at ~60% market share still allows them to deliver their campaigns. Ignoring non-Chrome browsers is ignoring a large set of users that advertisers should want to reach.

Advertisers should be trying a variety of tactics in Safari, Firefox, and other cookieless browsers. Tactics such as contextual targeting and using some of the newer cookieless user targeting options.  They can also experiment with different attribution models. Advertisers will not only find incremental reach today but will be prepared as Chrome makes changes in the future and be ahead of those who left all their ad dollars in Chrome until the last minute.

How in your view will adtech as a segment evolve to meet changing market needs and conditions?

The themes of Supply Path Optimization (SPO) have been leading marketers to realize that not all ad opportunities are created equal – by thinking more thoughtfully about the path of their ad dollars they can accomplish a variety of goals including:

  • fee minimization,
  • transparency,
  • fraud reduction,
  • DEI initiative support,
  • reduced carbon emissions,
  • ad performance,
  • and more.

I believe this trend will continue and specifically will broaden the focus of SPO away from just fee reduction to some of those other factors.

Can you share a few thoughts on the most impactful ad practices you’ve seen being undertaken by B2B teams today?

I see B2B teams achieving success by experimenting with targetting Safari and Firefox users, along with iOS in-app, through new targeting and attribution models. They’re reaching a huge segment of untapped audiences, and ones that share some essential attributes.

First, most owners of Apple products fit in this forgotten segment – a segment many marketers would be excited to reach. Second, because marketers are largely ignoring non-Chrome traffic, the ad load and ad clearing prices on these browsers are lower. Together, these factors give B2B and all other marketers a huge opportunity to focus on effectively operating in Safari and Firefox contexts today.

Some last thoughts, on making the most of one’s martech/adtech to drive goals through 2022 and beyond?

There are many exciting ways for marketers to make the most of their tech stack and their ad dollars:

  • Purposely evaluating walled-garden ad spend with an intention to diversify ad investment and support the types of online journalism that are aligned more with the interests of the brand.
  • Using SPO to eliminate non-value-add parts of the adtech ecosystem (such as pure impression reselling.)
  • Testing out new targeting and attribution models and contextual targeting in cookieless browsers such as Safari and Firefox.
  • Returning to emphasize the creative. Too often programmatic adtech is too obsessed with the tech and is not sufficiently concerned with the actual experience they are giving a consumer who sees their ad.
About Calibrate—

Founded in 2015, Calibrate is a yearly conference for new engineering managers hosted by seasoned engineering managers. The experience level of the speakers ranges from newcomers all the way through senior engineering leaders with over twenty years of experience in the field. Each speaker is greatly concerned about the craft of engineering management. Organized and hosted by Sharethrough, it was conducted yearly in September, from 2015-2019 in San Francisco, California.

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Curt Larson
Chief Product Officer

About the Author

Curt Larson has over 20 years of career experience in technology and product management. After spending 5 years at Deloitte Consulting managing large-scale systems implementation projects, he led the rollout of new mobile handsets and services for Vodafone Japan. He then moved to Silicon Valley and led several product management teams, including as a founding employee at Jibe mobile (now Google), growing and taking RingCentral public, and 10 years at Sharethrough, where he led the creation of the first native exchange and guided Sharethrough to a programmatic business model. He has co-authored numerous programmatic specs with the IAB and is active in the industry. He has experience leading product, UX, analytics, business development, operations, marketing, publisher sales and engineering. He sits on the board of the directors of the IAB Tech Lab, helping guide their work to support the industry through technology standards and solutions.

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